Dubai: Abu Dhabi’s Etihad does not plan to buy or lease smaller aircraft for its charter flight services, a senior airline official confirmed.
The existing 103-aicraft fleet has enough the diversity to more than fulfill the needs of customers. “We are able to leverage our existing fleet of passenger and cargo aircraft - and our regular planning and operations teams - to offer charter solutions as required by our customers,” said Alex Featherstone, Vice President Network Planning and Alliances.
Fit to needs
This has provided the airline with a lot of flexibility, insists Featherstone. For instance, the A320s can be used for smaller groups such as sporting teams. (Etihad arranged a last-minute flight for the English Premier League (EPL) team Manchester City to help them continue the Asia pre-season tour after they faced a delay on their initial journey.)
The airline also has jumbo-jets like the Boeing 777, which can fly larger numbers on ultra-long range missions. “We want to be our customers’ airline of choice - in the charter space, as we do with our scheduled flying,” said Featherstone.
Where it differs
Where the charter services – which was formally announced as a business strategy last week - will differ is in the flexibility it can offer Etihad’s clients. Last year, the Abu Dhabi airline completed over 500 charters for a range of customers.
“The increased charter activity that we have seen is certainly a welcome stream of additional business,” said Featherstone. But “we remain highly focused on building our scheduled route network back up in line with the expected improvement in global demand in 2021.
“The main purpose of this latest announcement is to promote our charter capabilities heading into 2021, especially for new customers who may not be fully aware of what it is that we can offer.”
Etihad had previously announced organizational changes aimed at transforming the company into a “mid-size, full-service” carrier with a “leaner, flatter and scale-able” structure.
However, the move towards charter has nothing to do with that. “The promotion of our charter capability is not linked to any other strategic plans,” said Featherstone.